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To Get to the Other Side

A journey through Europe and its anarchist movements

Snowing Again

Вторник, 7 Ноябрь, Київ

In Kyiv, it’s snowing again, just a week into November.  I love it.  But it’s easier to become house-bound in such cold.  Read books, write, study Russian, compose a letter to a friend.  Pet the cats.  Nothing to draw me outside but more sightseeing.  I’ve only met two anarchists in a month.  This is the drawback of not having to rely on the generosity of strangers for housing: you don’t have to leave your bubble. But it’s just as well because my two new friends live with their parents and couldn’t put me up. Right now, they’re both travelling. Actually, one’s in Berlin staying at the Köpi.


A protest outside the Kyiv Mexican embassy, in solidarity with the ongoing rebellion in Oaxaca

Not too many anarchists in Ukraina.  But there are plenty of fascists.  This past weekend, they fought each other in Bessarabski Square.  The Russian nationalists vs. the Ukrainian nationalists.  Five hundred in total facing off, with police on the side trying to keep it from getting too far out of hand.  The few anarchists could do nothing but keep off the streets.  Poland and Russia at least have large anarchist movements to hold back the fascists there.  In Kyiv they have to keep the location of their infoshop a secret so it doesn’t get destroyed.  They haven’t had a show—for fundraising or just to have fun—in months, because they could’t get enough people together to defend against the likely attack.  And the situation is getting worse.  In late October, a Nigerian immigrant was murdered on the Dnepr’s poorer left bank—one of the first killings of its kind by Kyiv fascists.  That same week the former Imperial Wizard of the KKK, David Duke, spoke as an invited guest at the city’s largest private university.

In the magazine Abolishing the Borders from Below, an article about the recent development of fascism here described how after the fascists had made themselves an embarrassment to the government with one particular murder, they became the target of a neutralization campaign by the police, who infiltrated different factions, spread false rumours, and turned the Russophile or Pan-Slavic tendencies against the more provincial Ukrainian ultra-nationalists.  Apparently the strategy quickly produced measurable results, and splintered what had been a well organized fascist movement.

Such windfalls rarely come from the state.  Throughout Europe it has been the organized, militant antifascist movement keeping the nazis in check.  It seems to be strongest in Germany, where with great dedication people collect information on the fascists, shut down their shops, hack their websites, attack their rallies, and pressure venues to cancel their events.  In St. Pauli a nazi-connected boutique had opened up.  They sold jackboots, clothing, jewelry and stickers with pagan runes on them—this was something that anti-Christian factions among the nazis were keen on.  Folks had pasted posters all around the neighborhood denouncing the shop, as part of a campaign to shut it down.  In Nederland as well as in Germany the antifascists published a well produced magazine full of action reports and information useful for guiding actions against the fascists: their pictures, their names, their location, their relationships with other fascist groups and with political parties, any events they were planning.

I would later come across a graffito on a squat in Barcelona: el feixisme avança si no se’l combat\fascism advances if it is not combated.  This certainly proved true the first time around, and it was coming true again.  Fascist gangs were taking over the streets, especially in places where economic and social turmoil might otherwise bolster revolutionary movements.  And mainstream political parties, many of them with direct links to skinhead gangs, were reviving fascist rhetoric and political programs on a degree unseen in Europe since World War II.  Dutch politicians were talking of protecting their cultural purity, the Polish president proclaimed the need to defend the country from immigration and homosexuality, Italy’s media baron also held the position of prime minister and led a right wing coalition fighting to restore the country’s glory. In Germany in 2006, the NPD (Nazis without the socialism) won over a tenth of the vote in Mecklenburg-Vorpormmern, a northern German state where unemployment is especially high. Yet it’s no surprise, to anarchists at least, that while nazi skinheads are killing dozens of people of color every year, the border guards are killing hundreds every year, and the media are spreading fear of immigrants and provoking conflict with Islam, governments from Nederland to Germany to Russia are classifying antifascists as extremists, persecuting them as a security threat, and putting many of them in prison for defending themselves and their communities against fascist violence. Two generations ago everyone in Europe was either an antifascist or a collaborator. Under the new regime, people are again told to look the other way as groups the media and government identify as enemies are attacked on the streets or herded into detention centers.


Europe was moving towards fascism all over again, and the Chamberlains of the day were letting it happen because nationalism is necessary to capitalism.  Those who benefit from neoliberalism were happy that someone else was framing up a scapegoat for the unemployment, the loss of social guarantees, the commoditization of culture, and loss of sovereignty, which fascists reinterpreted as threats to a mythologized homogeneous national identity.  Meanwhile, white people resented the millions of immigrants flooding in from the peripheral regions that served as sacrifice zones to the European and North American economies.  In Groningen Joop had showed me a British publication that featured nearly identical quotes from EU bureaucrats and ministers under Mussolini and Hitler, calling for the common market and a European government; the magazine also pointed out all the former Vichy officials who went on to become influential architects of the European Union. Der Markt über alles.